Illinois preservation groups fight over fate of Will County Courthouse

Some call it a landmark while others say it is an eyesore.

The fate of the former Will County Courthouse has been the center of many debates. 

It might be the world's ugliest courthouse, but those trying to save it say that's not the point. 

The courthouse is in downtown Joliet by the train station and sits on Route 66.

"We're standing on the crossroads of Route 66, we are by five wedding venues, right, so there could be a lot of value in this building," said Quinn Adamowski the Regional Advocacy Manager with Landmarks Illinois.

Preservationists want the county to at least entertain private development options, but the county says they legally can't. 

The state's attorney said that the property has to be for public use.

"From our perspective, the county is not currently evaluating other options," said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.  "The courts have said this that our state's attorney has said this that we cannot sell the property. It has to be for public use."

Adamowski said one option would be for the county to maintain ownership but lease it to a developer.


"An example of that would be the Cook County Hospital, which Cook County still owns, but they've entered into a 99-year lease with a firm to redevelop it and operate it," said Adamowski.

The Brutalist concrete building is from 1969 and was the backdrop for the Drew Peterson trial, but the wrecking ball is set for July. 

The county board voted back in 2019 to tear it down and, in late 2020, it closed. That’s also when the new Will County Courthouse opened across the street.

The county preliminarily estimates the cost of demolition to be $2.5 million.

Preservation groups, like Landmark Illinois, say the county should save that cash and look at other options that could benefit the area, like a hotel, convention space or housing. 

Bertino-Tarrant said one informal idea for the property is to build another government facility.

Landmark Illinois is now receiving several ideas from developers and will present those ideas next month. 

They are also hosting a heart bombing event Saturday morning. At 10 a.m. residents can make artwork at MyGrain Brewing Company, 50 E. Jefferson St., #106 in Joliet and a picture will be taken with the artwork and residents in front of the Will County Courthouse at Noon.